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guitar • Relate Magazine

Chit Chatting with R5’s Ellington Ratliff


Written by Jill Sheets

If you are a fan of the band R5, then it is hard to miss Ellington Ratliff. He is the drummer and singer of the group, which has been together for eight years. Read on and learn more about him, R5’s new album, and five things you may not know about him.


R: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start singing?

E: I grew up in an entertainment family. My grandma is a dance teacher (still teaching, now on her 71st year), Mom’s a choreographer, and Dad produces shows in Japan, so it’s safe to say I was born into the industry. I’ve been singing and acting since I can remember.


R: Tell us about your new album New Addictions. What are some of your favorite songs from this album?

E: Picking a favorite song is like picking a favorite child, but I do like “Trading Time” and “Red Velvet” a lot. Even though it’s not technically on New Addictions, our new single, “Hurts Good,” is out and it’s definitely one of my favorites.


R: Where can people get your music?

E: Everywhere. Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, YouTube, etc. If you have a computer, you can listen to R5.


R: What is it like working with R5? What has been your favorite memory so far?

E: We’ve been a band for eight years, so there are too many memories to have a favorite. I always love being in the studio or on the road. I think that’s where we gain the best stores. We are very lucky to be able to do what we love and to have fans coming to see us all over the world. We are very grateful.


R: You play the drums. How long have you been playing and why did you decide to play them?

E: I didn’t pick up the drums until I was eleven, but I’ve loved them ever since. They’re a great way to put out energy–like if you’re having a bad day or if you’re extremely excited about something, drums are always there to be hit. I didn’t start drumming every day seriously until I met the guys (and girl) in R5.


R: Are you currently on tour? If so, how long is this tour?

E: We are currently on tour in Europe until late October, and then we head to South America. You can check our website for all tour dates.


R: What is the best thing about touring and being on stage?

E: I love being able to travel and experience other cultures and meet fans from around the world who have been touched by our music. Being on stage is also great, especially when a show is electric and the fans are totally in it with you, there’s nothing better.


R: You are also an actor. Is this something you would like to do more of in the future?

E: Yes, I’d love to be on a comedy series like Parks and Rec. Whenever I’m on a set it seems like so much fun.


R: Who is your biggest influence?

E: I look up to people who succeed in all types of entertainment, especially people like Donald Glover, who has his music project Childish Gambino. He’s also playing Lando in the new Star Wars film.


R: What are five things people may not know about you?


1. I was named after the famous jazz musician Duke Ellington.

  1. When I was thirteen, I did the workshop and LA company of 13: The Musical by Jason Robert Brown (famous composer in the theater world). Later, Ariana Grande did the same show on Broadway.
  2. I can juggle.
  3. I started out playing guitar before I got fully into drums.
  4. I’m an avid music finder.


R: Do you have a girlfriend? 

E: Yes, I do–she is the keyboardist in R5 and her name is Rydel. She also has a YouTube channel. You all should check it out. It’s about all things, from baking to tour life.


R: Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

E: It wasn’t necessarily towards me, but while doing a signing after a show somewhere, a mother of a fan asked Ross to give her the gum he was chewing. We were just like, “uh…no.”


R: Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which one and what are their addresses? Do you have an official website and/or YouTube page?

E: I’m on Twitter and Instagram under @ratliffR5, and new episodes of R5 TV are back on the R5 YouTube channel. R5 TV pretty much is our POV of what our everyday life is like on and off the road.


R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

E: Thank you for listening to our music and coming to our shows. We wouldn’t survive without you guys, and we’re going to keep releasing music, so stay tuned!


Photo Credit: Valentina Socci


Getting Started On Guitar

Many of you will agree that there’s no instrument quite as cool as a guitar. From tranquil, airy pop ballads to the blistering solos of metal, this instrument can fill a wide variety of roles, and even if you’re not much of a player, you’re going to look good with one hanging over your neck! Whether you’ve got a dream of being a pro musician or just want to see what all the fuss is about, here are some great tips for getting started with guitar.

Pick Your Instrument

The guitar industry is absolutely huge. If you have a look around any music store, you could quickly begin to feel overwhelmed by all the different makes and models. The first thing you want to do is find out about the technical differences between types of electric guitars via buzzharmony.com or a similar website. Your choice here is mainly going to depend on the kind of music you want to play. Cutaway acoustics are better for country, for example, and through-neck electrics with Floyd roses are better for rock and metal. The next main piece of advice we can offer is not to spend too much, or too little. While you generally get what you pay for with guitars, you don’t want to spend $1,500 on a new Stratocaster, only to drop the hobby a few weeks in. Many low and mid-range guitars get a decent tone, and will teach you the basics, which is what your first guitar should be for.

Get a Head Start

As you may be aware, some of the greatest guitarists who ever lived were completely self-taught, including Jimi Hendrix and Slash. However, if you want to get the best possible start in playing guitar, we recommend getting at least a small block of professional lessons. Having a teacher observe you can help to wean you off of some of the common bad habits that beginner guitarists tend to pick up. These really aren’t anything to worry about when you’re first starting out, but as you try to tackle more advanced music, they can become a major obstacle. Look up a local tutor, or find a service that allows you to take lessons over Skype. After around ten hours, you’ll have a good enough foundation to go it alone if you want to. The internet is bursting with YouTube tutorials on songs and techniques, not to mention a whole library of free tablature, covering almost every song with a guitar part!

Practice, Practice, Practice

We’ll close with the most important tip of all. A lot of people get frustrated with slow starts in music, and wonder why they’re not making the progress they want. The whole mystery is actually one of the simplest concepts in the world: the more you practice, the better you’ll get, and the sooner you’ll get where you want to be. There are going to be times where you don’t want to play guitar, but you have to power through these if you want to see quick results! See uberchord.com for some great practice tips.

Wow! Playing An Instrument Can Make You Smarter & Help You Study Harder

Studying can be very hard, particularly if you just don’t understand the topic you’re studying. You sit there at your desk and close your eyes wishing that you could be just that little bit smarter. Well, did you know that playing an instrument can actually make you a better student? That’s right, playing an instrument is proven to make you smarter, which will help you study harder.

Sounds pretty cool, right? But, how does it happen?


How Instruments Make You Smarter

To start explaining things, we need to take a look at the human brain. A brain is made up of many different sections, all of which contribute to different things. When you play an instrument, you get loads of different parts of your brain all working together at the same time. What this means is that your brain starts to work a lot harder, which helps you develop certain skills, and become smarter.

The biggest link between musical instruments and studying has to be the effect they have on your memory and processing skills. When you play an instrument, you have to memorize things and study lots of musical notes to make sense of chords, etc. This helps you develop your memory and processing skills, which is essential if you want to be smarter. It translates to your student life and helps you remember things better when studying for tests.

Playing an instrument can also help you with your visual and motor skills, as well as your problem-solving skills. If you play from a young age, it will benefit you throughout your life and help you improve key skills that assist with your studies.

The Best Instruments To Play

While playing any instrument is a great idea, there are a few that will help you get the best results. So, pay attention and see if any of these instruments interests you:

Guitars are said to be one of the best things you can play if you want to give your brain a big boost. Picking up something like a Yamaha FG700s will stimulate your brain, as guitars require you to do two things at once with both hands. You have to strum the strings while also working your other fingers into position to create chords.

Playing the piano is another thing that’s highly recommended. Again, this is because you use both your hands at once, which increases the brainpower you use. The piano also requires you to learn sheet music, which further develops your brain. If you can’t fit a piano in your house or student accommodation, then a small keyboard will do the trick too!

Finally, there’s the violin. Another two-handed instrument that’s tough to play, but will bring great results. Once more, you have to train your brain to focus on multiple things at once when playing this instrument. But, there’s the added benefit of the bow, which puts an emphasis on manual dexterity skills.

So, if you’re stressing about your studies and wish you could be a little bit smarter, why don’t you try playing an instrument? You’ll be surprised at how effective it might be!

Chit Chatting with Actress Jillian Shea Spaeder


Written by Jill Sheets

Recently, I was blessed to be able to interview up-and-coming star Jillian Shea Spaeder. Read on as she talks about the TV shows she has been in, her love of singing, and where you can find her on social media.


R: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and how you got into acting. 

J: When I was in elementary school, I had some small roles in concerts and musicals. That’s how I caught the bug! I started with a private acting coach in fifth grade, and that holiday season I was cast in my first equity theater production. I was the only child in a cast of twelve. The following summer, I met my manager while in a performing arts competition in Hollywood. She was teaching a seminar the day before the competition began and told my mom after the seminar that she wanted me to come see her. I went to her office and did a cold read, and she offered to represent me. Because we live on the East Coast, we weren’t sure about living in California, so she encouraged us to come out for pilot season to test the waters. We came for two months, and at the very end of the trip, I had my first audition for Walk the Prank.


R: Tell us about your show Walk the Prank and about your character Bailey.

J: Walk the Prank is about four kids who have a popular online hidden camera show. The characters pull the pranks on real-life people, though, which gives the show a unique blend of reality and scripted comedy. Bailey is the only female of the foursome, and she’s the techie who uploads all of the videos onto the group’s channel. She is sassy, sarcastic, and one of the guys, but she’s also like every other girl fawning over the cute new guy.


R: What was the audition process like? Where were you when you found out you got the part?

J: The audition for Walk the Prank came up just as we were getting ready to leave California to return home to Philadelphia. We actually had the audition three hours before our flight was set to leave. The casting director told me she was sending me in to see producers the next day, so we canceled our flight. After I saw producers the following day, my manager called to say I would test for the role but it would be another two weeks or so. We stayed in California, and about three weeks later we had chemistry reads. Four girls read for the role of Bailey, and that evening I learned that it was down to another girl and me. We flew home and waited another month before the call finally came. The producers called while we were out to dinner with friends, saying the role was mine, and that we would be shooting the pilot just a few days later. I was jumping up and down with excitement!

R: What is your favorite part of the show?

J: On Walk the Prank, I not only play the role of Bailey, but I get to play all the roles Bailey plays when pranking. I have so much fun with all the different characters, especially when I get to be scary. I’ve always wanted to be in a horror film, so this gives me a little taste of that.


R: Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to?

J: We are in the middle of shooting our second season of Walk the Prank, but I hope to do some movie auditions in the spring. I’d love to get into some films.


R: If they were to make your favorite book into a movie, what book and what part would you like to play?

J: I would love to play the main girl in one of the stories in A Tale Dark and Grimm. I love that series of books!


R: What advice would you give someone who wants to be an actress?

J: Being an actor is a lot harder than it looks! It’s easy to see someone on TV and say, “I could do that,” but actors work very hard. For teens like me, we work nine and a half hours a day and also have to do school during that time (and finish at night if we fall behind). We sometimes have school on Saturdays, as well. Private coaching and acting classes are important, too.


R: I read that you sing. Is that true? If so, do you have any plans on release an album?

J: I love to sing. I have been singing my whole life, even with my parents’ band at age nine. I started playing guitar and ukulele the past year, so now I’ve been practicing to improve them and work on some new cover tunes for my YouTube channel. I wrote and recorded my first original song in the studio this past summer, and I hope to release an album at some point.


R: Tell us about Children International.

J: Children International is a non-profit organization where you can sponsor impoverished children, sending in a small monthly amount that provides them with medical care, educational needs, or anything else to help them improve their quality of life. We learned about the organization from my aunt, who has sponsored many kids through the organization. My parents then began sponsoring three children when I was little (to match my brother, sister, and me). As a teen, my sister Emma ran a neighborhood camp for five years and donated twenty percent of her profits to CI, which made an impression on me. I hope to follow in her footsteps in some way. A few years ago, my aunt, mom, sister, and I had the opportunity to visit Ecuador to spend the day with two of our sponsored kids and learn more about the wonderful work CI is doing in that and other underprivileged areas of the world. It was truly a humbling experience.

R: It is not easy growing up these days. What advice would you give teenagers in general?

J: Be kind, be generous, and be a friend to someone who needs it. People who bully or say mean things probably do that because they don’t feel good about themselves. Don’t let them bring you down with them!


R: What is it like to communicate with your fans? What is the nicest thing a fan has said or done for you?

J: I love communicating with my fans, especially on Live.ly, where they can post their questions and I can answer them live. I’m not sure if this is one of the nicest things a fan ever said to me, but it was definitely memorable. She said she was being bullied and had become very depressed, but when she watched me on Walk the Prank, she felt like something clicked, and she decided to get into acting. She says she has gotten a few leads in school shows and is much more confident about herself now.


R: What are your future goals?

J: In the near future, I hope to be shooting a third (and even fourth!) season of Walk the Prank, appear in a film or two, and release an album!


R: Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

J: Someone actually asked if I was the girl from Stranger Things (Millie Bobby Brown)!


R: Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what are their addresses? Do you have an official website and/or YouTube page?

J:  My official website is jilliansheaspaeder.com and my social media links are:

Instagram:          @JillianSheaSpaeder

Twitter:               @JillianSpaeder

Facebook:           Jillian Shea Spaeder

Snapchat:           Jillbean1982

Musical.ly:         Jillian.Spaeder

Live.ly:                Jillian.Spaeder


R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your fans?

J: Yes…pranks a lot for watching the show!


R: Jillian, thank you for the interview. Have a great day.

J: Thank YOU!


Photo credits: Ryan West Photo

Playing The Guitar Doesn’t Have To Be A Pain In The Wrist

guitarYoung and old, novice and experienced, there’s one thing that unites all guitar players regardless of age or talent and that’s the health of their wrists.  As a beginner guitarist yourself, you realize the strange way you bend your wrist (combined with the pressure you exert to hold down the strings) can add stress to your joints. Carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and even arthritis can result, which would really put a damper on your practice time. Sore joints, tendons, and muscles shouldn’t come in between you and the songs you love to play. Quality self-care practices you can follow at home and a few pointers from a professional can keep your playing pain-free.

Because of the repetitive motions involved in holding chords and notes, guitarists are at a high risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. The strain on the wrist causes the median nerve (which runs along your forearm into the palm of your hand) to become compressed. As a result, you can feel any number of symptoms, including pain or weakness in your arm, wrist, and hand. Try playing a C-minor 1st position like that and (yikes) it won’t feel or sound good. With similar symptoms, tendonitis can also throw a wrench in your playing. It’s actually a swelling of the tendons and can develop anywhere, though it’s most often seen in the wrist and elbows. Whatever the doctor calls it, chronic pain has no place in your practice regiment.

Many guitarists introduce particular stretches and massages into their routine to avoid this fate. By taking several breaks throughout a lengthy session, you too can keep yourself free of pain. Simple enough, these stretches can even be completed anytime and anywhere you feel like your wrists are stiff or swollen. One popular stretch involves raising your arm perpendicular to the floor, and gently pullingback on your fingers towards your shoulder to stretch them out. You can also pull down on your thumb to make an ‘L’ shape in order to maximize the benefits of this stretch.

If you’re playing guitar all on your own and you feel your wrists are tender, it could also be due to the way that you’re strumming or holding your chords. Though many talented guitar players are self-taught, skipping professional musical instruction has its downsides – one of which is picking up bad habits. When you take lessons from a certified instructor, you’re learning more than just basic theory. Your instructor is also there to notice when a bad habit has wormed its way into your playing, and he or she will let you know when your guitar height, strap, or performance style is setting you up for injury. Having a set of expert eyes on you is a form of self-care that’s just as important as your stretches, so don’t delay in looking for an instructor. Search online and find a local provider of professional instructors ready to help you out. Like those found at Long-mcquade.com/lessons, the instructor you choose should be able to accommodate any learning style and availability so that together, you can set yourself (and your wrist) up for success.

Just as wind instruments have the correct embouchure, string instruments have correct wrist, hand, and arm positions. While wrist strain will always be prevalent in guitar players, you can take pre-emptive measures to secure the health of your joints. When you play your guitar the way it was meant to be played, you’re less likely to experience injuries to your wrist. Armed with the right knowledge, a keen eye, and a few essential stretches, you’ll be able to keep playing – painfree!

Travis Ryan: Fearless

Travis Ryan:  Fearless

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Travis Ryan:  FearlessI love the word fearless.  Not as an adjective, but as a verb.  A command.  To stop living life with anxiety or fear and submit to a God that knows what we need better than we do.  Travis seems to want this as well, citing scripture 1 John 4:18 (“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear”) as a prayer for the church and a theme that encompasses this worship album.

Fearless has just enough rock infused in the songs to make this worship project stand out a bit from other recent worship releases, yet it still fits in nicely to any worship set.  Perfect examples include the guitars in the latter half of the last song, “Chase;” what begins as a quiet song about God seeking us, beckoning us, evolves into an explosive expression of gratitude that He loves us infinitely.  But, more so, there is an undercurrent of drums that ebbs and flows throughout the album, reminding me of the battle we are always in; that this in fact a war for our souls.

Favorites include the “Battle Song,” “Jesus, Precious Jesus” (the first single), and “The Wrestling,” citing all the ways and reasons why Jesus wins out over the world (“How great is your love/How great is your love”).  Like “Chase,” the song blossoms into a celebration for the victory.  But, ultimately, if there is any song not to miss, for me it is, “Awaken Us,” for the lyrics “This is our desire/Come like a fire.”  The closer the walk with God, the more alive we are, which will influence our decisions and desires.

Joined by some of worship’s leading writers including Matt Redman and Jason Ingram and Grammy winning mixers and engineers,  Adam Hawkins and Chris Testa, Fearless very well may become go to album for me as I struggle with my insecurities rather than embrace the courage that resides in a dependency on God.  Because these songs remind me of all that I lose sight of when I am letting my fears take the foothold, the album becomes more than just another praise record in my collection.  Fearless is strong and bold; a collection of songs that resonates deeply and inspires greatly.

For more information, please visit www.integritymusic.com.  The album will be available for purchase on April 10.

Lisa Bianco: Momentum

Lisa Bianco:  Momentum

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Lisa Bianco:  MomentumThere’s nothing not to love about this seven song EP.  Generally, I prefer a woman’s voice to a man’s, but unfortunately, it’s that extra something in a male dominated band that has me listening to more guys than girls.  That “extra something” isn’t missing on this album.  Lisa brings it all to the table:  excellent vocals, enough guitars to make me feel like rocking out, and enough relatable material to make me feel like I’m sitting down on a rainy Saturday afternoon having a chat with my best friend.  Nope, no guys required here.

Lisa opens the album with “Breakin,’” a song about a dissolving relationship that neither he nor you are fighting for.  And so you’re watching in dismay as it deteriorates.  But, there’s more comfort in the song than motivation to save it.  Because some relationships aren’t meant to be salvaged.  The other break-up song, “Erase You,” follows “Breakin,’” and has a miffed Lisa realizing that “you never cared for me” even though she wanted so badly too see that he was capable of loving someone.  Because the guy doesn’t treat her the way she deserves to be treated, she wants the mere memory of him erased.  Hey, we’ve all been there.

But there’s more to Lisa than the girl who’s been treated badly.  “Big City Lights” explains the draw Lisa has to be more than the girl residing in a small town with a quiet life.  While I don’t share her ambition to stand out in a crowd of people, I very much relate to her desires to chase down her passions and what inspires her.  I loved this song about chasing down a dream and being attracted to what makes you feel alive.

“Lovely” is more reflection on a relationship that didn’t work, but it’s vastly different from the first two tracks.   Wistful and sad, this is a different side to Lisa and shows her vulnerability and gentler spirit.  Missing a relationship that didn’t last for various reasons, she allows herself to entertain, for just a moment, what it would be like if it had worked out.  Sweeping and emotional, this is a great track.  “No Doubt About It” shows different side yet again-this is a happier song about finding the right guy and being absolutely positive he is the one she wants to be with.

The song Lisa closes with, “Low,” is my favorite.  Sometimes acoustic, sometimes electric, but always raw, this five minute track is a reach out to someone who is struggling with depression and some dark times.  It reveals a songstress with heart and a strong sensitivity to someone else’s pain.

Talented and versatile, Lisa has a lot to offer with Momentum.  Radio friendly yet better than much of the music that over saturates the current stations, I will be listening to Lisa when my thirst for strong rock with a soul that can’t be sated by anything else.

Please visit www.lisabianco.com for more information.

Ted Hovis: Let It Shine

Ted Hovis: Let It Shine

Written by Ellen Marie Hawkins

Ted Hovis

Ted Hovis

(picture courtesy of www.myspace.com/tedhovis)

Ted’s voice is a beautiful instrument; an engaging one. And fortunately for him, it also
sets him apart. It was difficult for me to place a comparison; he’s that unique without
being weird. The focal point for me is often the lyrics on an album, but there were times
I had to force myself to pay attention to what he was singing about rather than how he
was singing it.

Also fortunately for him, Ted guitar skills are as good as his vocals; only making my
predicament with focusing even more difficult. He alternates so well between soul and
blues and rock, there isn’t a genre for him to fit in, and that’s a good thing because talent
like this shouldn’t be contained to one space. For him, it just spills over.

So now, the lyrics. Who is this guy and what is he about? There’s a lot of loss here.
In “The Well Has Run Dry,” Ted makes my heart hurt as he sings, “Have I lost my
place in this world/If I haven’t the strength to try anymore.” He also seems to hold onto
something he often feels he’s about to lose. In “Until It Fades,” he sings, “But it all feels
so right/To be here by your side/Until it fades away.” This sentiment seems to be an
underlying current to many of the tracks on the album.

But there’s also hope. In “The Place You Called Home,” the chorus declares, “You’ll
find me waiting for you/In the place you called home” as a loved one struggles to return
to happier times. In “Twisting in Denial,” one of the stand outs on the album, Ted
promises that he’d rather feel the pain than living with false hope. In “Thinking Out
Loud,” he realizes that “Time is a healer, time is a means to an end/Time lets me see
again.” And even in “Until it Fades,” while the written lyric has such a heaviness to it,
Ted delivers it in a way that reveals he’s just appreciating the moment and not focusing
on the heartache at the end of the road.

Ultimately, hope floats. Even if it seems lost in the quagmire of heartbreak. And I
appreciate the sentiment that Let it Shine gave to me; without the valleys, we can’t
appreciate the pinnacles for the beauty that resides there. Ted’s got a beautiful way of
taking you on that journey, from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Please visit him at www.tedhovis.com and be sure to purchase on iTunes.